American Forces Press Service
Feb. 23, 2009 - Soldiers with the 63rd Armor Regiment got the chance to buy homemade products and souvenirs and further the cause of Iraqi women and their families recently when they hosted a bazaar to sell the women's handiwork. "This is a great way for local women to improve their small businesses and take care of their families," said Army Capt. Sara Woods, with the regiment's 445th Civil Affairs Battalion. "It also allows our soldiers to purchase authentic Iraqi souvenirs and gifts."
Many of the women in the Mahmudiyah area lost their husbands to insurgent violence and struggle to provide for their families, making them easy targets for insurgents. The Feb. 17 bazaar served as a way to show them they can create a better future for their families.
"This is a good project that is helping widows and people who need the money. I am so happy to be a part of it," said Madiha Gumar, one of the small-business owners and a member of the Mahmudiyah Women's Group.
This is the second bazaar soldiers of the civil affairs battalion of Task Force 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, have had the opportunity to be involved with, and it was much larger than the first, officials said. Those who took part in the bazaar said they were glad not only to have something to take home, but also to give back to the Iraqi community.
"It was very beneficial in what we're trying to do for Iraq. From a personal standpoint, it was really gratifying to know we were helping the widows and their children," said Dale Hamilton, a civilian law enforcement professional attached to the task force.
The bazaar was considered a success and presented a foundation for each woman present to continue to expand her business.
"They came in and they sold these products to the soldiers, and I think each one of them walked out with a couple hundred dollars," Army Lt. Col. Anne Resty, a coordinator for women's initiatives, said. "So now afterwards they can buy more fabric and other materials to make more products that they can sell in the local markets as well."
The event also helped to increase the good relationship between the people of Mahmudiyah and the soldiers stationed on the forward operating base there.
"The more they see us as helpful Americans and they get to know us, they get to know that we have children, they get to know that we have spouses, and they get to know that we're just normal people, ... and the benefits are multi-faceted," Resty said. "They're going to think of us as normal people and [realize] that we can help them."
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)